With all of the many problems that Virginia and the rest of the country face, one would think that Virginia's Attorney General would be far too busy to try to interfere with inta-denominational disputes within the Episcopal Church.
Not Regent Law graduate "Taliban Bob" McDonnell who, when questioned by a news reporter, said he "could not recall" if he had ever violated Virginia's former sodomy statue which made basically any form of sex other than male-female sex in the so-called missionary position a felony. This question was asked while McDonnell was part of the quasi-lynch mob of legislators (all members of the GOP) that torpedoed the judicial reappointment of Verbena Askew, the first female African-American circuit judge in Virginia history, due to rumors that - Heavens forbid - she might be lesbian. Here's Lambda Legal's account of that travesty ( http://www.lambdalegal.org/news/pr/sodomy-law-discrimination.html).
Now, Taliban Bob is busy trying to help the break away element of the Episcopal Church to successfully take from the Virginia Episcopal Diocese the property owned by the Diocese and previously used by those congregations seeking to align with themselves under the lunatic homophobe African bishops in the Anglican Communion. Somehow I did not think my tax dollars which pay McDonnell's salary should be supporting this type of intra-church religious intervention. Plus, as noted in the news coverage, McDonnell may be doing this due to a conflict of interest within his office. Here are some highlights from the Washington Post's coverage (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/11/AR2008011103425.html):
The attorney general of Virginia has filed a motion to intervene in the court battle between the Episcopal Church and 11 breakaway congregations, arguing that he is obliged to defend the constitutionality of a state statute at the center of the trial.
The case in Fairfax County Circuit Court is over whether the conservative congregations, which left the national church over disputes related to the interpretation of Scripture and the acceptance of homosexuality, can keep the land and buildings. After voting to leave in 2006 and 2007, the congregations filed court papers saying they had -- under a Civil War-era Virginia law -- legally "divided" from the national church and thus were keeping the property.
But the Episcopal Church and the Virginia Diocese, its local branch, argue that there has been no legal "division" -- rather that a minority of dissidents opted to leave, and therefore have no rights to the land or buildings. Church lawyers also say it would be unconstitutional for the state to determine when a hierarchical church -- such as the Episcopal Church -- has had a fundamental division, that such a judgment is a religious matter. Meddling would be a violation of church-state separation, diocesan lawyers say.
McDonnell's office has another connection to this issue -- his deputy, former state senator William C. Mims (R), who has been a member of another Episcopal church that broke away from the national church over the same issues of how to understand Scripture as it pertains to homosexuality. Mims prompted controversy and much debate in 2005 when he -- as a senator -- proposed a bill that would have explicitly allowed congregants who leave their denominations to keep their land. The measure failed, and opponents said it was an inappropriate insertion of government into church affairs. Mims did not return a message, and Martin said he was unavailable for comment.
A quick reading of Section 57-9 of the Virginia Code suggests to me that it may not be applicable to Episcopal Church based on the overall structure of the church. The statute refers to churches where each property is owned by "trustees," whereas the Catholic Church and Episcopal Churches have different overall church structures and forms of property ownership. As a historical note, Section 57-9's origin is from the Civil War period when churches - particularly the what are now Southern Baptist - were breaking away from denominations that were coming to believe in the abolition of slavery. Thus, the law originated in order to permit racists and bigots to keep their church property instead of losing it to the denomination. Some things do not change in Virginia.